The journey of a future librarian

Friday, November 26, 2010

Reference Can Happen Anywhere

I work part time at the front desk of a gym over in Dewitt. It is a fairly simple job; I wash towels, answer the phone and hand out locks. All your usual costumer service things. However, the other day it somehow turned into a reference desk for one of the members.

I guess that technically, some one at a front desk is equipped to handle ready reference questions for the business. I know the hours, the prices, and other little facts about the business. However, this situation went beyond ready reference; pretty much turning into a full on reference interview.

A member, of the gym, came to me at the front desk and asked me to look up a medical condition  he called diastolic zero; as well as looking for the term hyper dynamics. Trying to be the learned reference librarian that we are training to be in 605 I decided to go straight to, instead of using a Google search. Well let me just say that typing the terms that the member gave to me did not result in any search results at that site. So I started to ask clarifying questions to the patron to try to see if I understood what he was truly trying to get an answer for. I was bit concfused as to what I was actually trying to find for the member; what the codition was, how it happened, how to treat it? I didn't know.

However, the member just seemed to repeat the terms that he wanted me to find. He didn't say "I want to know what causes the some one to have a diastolic of zero." He really wasn't giving me much of a direction to look for the answer or information was that he wanted. Maybe I wasn't asking the right questions, but there was a communication problem going on.

At this point I started to get a bit frustrated with the situation. The member was hoovering and insistent on having the information quickly. Also, they wanted to go about looking for the information themselves, making me feel that I was incompetent of the search. Eventually, due to the inability to search on for the information I gave into a Google search. I figured the member wasn't really going for the creditability of the information, they just wanted it quickly. So, in combination with wanting to stop the members inquiring and a Google search I ended up giving the member a halfhearted answer.

I know that this member does not know I am going to school to be a library, so they were not aware of my pride that was on the line. However, I realized that this situation is the type of thing that I am going to face all the time working in a public library. Obviously this situation did not go as I would have liked, but it really helped me to think about how I should act in future reference situations. It is going to be important to keep a level head no matter who you are working with or what they are asking. It doesn't help to get frustrated with the member, you get flustered in your search and can jeopardize the end result.

In conclusion, I learned that the life of a reference library is going to be a trying career. However, the fact that you are helping others learn and be informed is the reason that we need to do this work.


Marilyn Arnone said...

I realize that this post is about a year or so old but just wanted to say that it was appreciated. There is nothing like a good (and relevant) story to make a point.

Post a Comment